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nothing but the telling of a merry tale ? so that this is the very ground of right poetry, to give profitable counsel, yet so as it must be mingled with delights." Webbe supports his argument by citations from the Latin poets, then proceeds to the discussion of eclogues and of forms of rhyming
In so doing he speaks at large of “ The Shepheardes Calender," and speaks in detail of its “twelve or thirteen sundry sorts of verses, which differ either in length, or rhyme, or distinction of the staves; but of them which differ in length or number of syllables, not past six or seven.” Then follows the discussion and setting forth of the principles of versification in the manner of the ancients, with admission that “as for the quantity of our words, therein lieth great difficulty and the chiefest matter in this faculty.” He quotes Watson's hexameters upon what “All travellers do gladly report” of Ulysses. He quotes also Spenser's version of “ Hæc habui
“ All that I eate did I ioy and all that I greedily gorged.
As for those măniě | goodlie | māttērs | lēst Ỹ fór | ōthērs.”
Webbe then proceeds to illustrate his argument by a translation of his own that reproduces the two first eclogues of Virgil in hexameters, beginning thus
“ Tityrus happilie thou lyste tumbling vnder a beech tree
All in a fine oate pipe these sweete songs lustilie chaunting :
mooued, And fro our pastures sweete : thou Tityr, at ease in a shade plott, Makst thicke groues to resound with songes of braue Amarillis."
Webbe also gives a paraphrase, into Sapphic verse, of Spenser's song to Eliza in the fourth eclogue of “The Shepheardes Calender.” It is enough for us to look at his recasting of Spenser's first four lines
“ Ye dainty Nymphes that in this blessed brooke
doo bathe your brest :
at my request !”
“ The Saphick verse.
For to bathe there your pretty breasts at all times :
at my requeste nowe.”
Feeble precursors these of Marlowe's mighty line, that in another year or two would lead the way to a true shaping of our own unrhymed iambic measure into a verse unbounded in the range of its expression, the Blank Verse that was to come to its full strength hereafter.
In Spain there had been imitation of the Latin classics which served only to strengthen by restraints of art the old
national style. Diego de Mendoza-wit, scholar, Classicism
and statesman—who died at Granada seventy
two years old in the year 1575, had written in his early manhood the famous tale, first printed in 1553, of “ Lazarillo de Tormes ”—little Lazarus, born on the banks of the Tormes, near Salamanca—first of the line of books which satirised society by fabling the careers of rogues. But Mendoza, who collected Greek manuscripts while employed by his sovereign in negotiations of the highest trust, wrote a hynın in honour of Cardinal Espinosa after five days of exclusive devotion to Pindar. He based upon Sallust the style of his Guerra de Granada, a polished history of the rebellion stirred by the Moors in 1568-1570. This was written by him at the close of life, and first printed in 1610. Beneath the current of the fashions of the day there was in these times an undercurrent of the classical influence that caused many prose-writers to pay right heed to the shaping of their sentences. We begin to find in the best
writers of Europe a homely vocabulary and, with free allowance for the grace of idiom, a Latin style.
But thought had expanded, its materials had multiplied, and the common language of the people nowhere sufficed for full expression. Each speaker and writer in
Widening one generation has a vocabulary differing in some
Language. respects from that of any of his neighbours. The most cultivated Englishman does not use a fifth of the words catalogued in a full English dictionary. A few hundred words suffice for all the needs of speech in an uneducated man, and a fairly educated man will go through life with a few thousand. More wealth of words is wanted for the expression of more wealth of thought; and this need caused men in Elizabeth's reign to attempt the recovery
of old words passing out of use, and the invention of new words, derived chiefly from Greek or Latin. Evidence of this abounds in the work of English writers throughout the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth and the reign of James I., but the change proceeds almost insensibly by effort somewhere to supply each want when it is felt. In France there was a definite attempt in this direction, and a foremost poet had been leader of the band of authors who endeavoured to enrich the word-store of French literature and to mend its style, by making it conform more closely to the standard of a classical Augustan age. Thus, while Italian influence was paramount in Western Europe, the foundations of French influence were being laid.
France aims at the ideal. We shall find again and again in this history that in France, if anywhere, prevailing forms of thought first crystallise into some clearly defined system to which men seek to refer their speculations, and by which they seek to shape action. There is a weak side, no doubt, to the idealist's intolerance of a conception imperfectly expressed, or burdened with details that blur its outline ; but as the brave idealist, France has a place of her own—a noble
place--in the modern history of progress. She has suffered often for the common good, and she has made, in small things as in great, experiments towards perfection that have been instructive even when they failed. Our English classicism under Elizabeth owed something to France. It had among its vital forces impulse from the classical idealism of Ronsard.
Pierre de Ronsard died on the twenty-seventh of December, 1585, aged sixty-one years and three or four
months. He was of a noble French family which had its remote origin from where the Danube
runs nearest to Thrace. Out of service of a king's son at the Court of France, Ronsard passed, as a boy, into Scotland, in May, 1537, as page to James V., after his marriage on New Year's Day to the sixteen-year-old consumptive princess Magdalene, who died in the following July Young Ronsard was for about two years at the Court of Scotland. He was there in June, 1538, when James V. married Mary of Guise, and he lived afterwards for six months in England. On his return to France, Pierre de Ronsard resumed his office of page in the service of the Duke of Orleans, after whose death he was transferred to the household of Prince Henry, who in 1547, as Henry II., succeeded Francis I. upon the throne of France. Ronsard was but a boy of sixteen when he went to Germany in the train of Lazare de Baïf, ambassador to Spires. There he learnt German, and had an illness that left him for the rest of his life deaf. Du Bellay also was deaf. Deafness disqualified Ronsard for a courtier's life, and combined with the influence of a scholarly companion to direct Ronsard towards the full use of his mind. He fastened vigorously upon Virgil, and learnt all Virgil by heart. He studied the Roman de la Rose and the works of Clement Marot. He went to the schools again in 1543, and after his father's death, in June, 1544, Ronsard placed himself under the
tuition of the learned Jean Dorat, who was also deaf. Dorat taught Greek at the Collége de Coqueret to the son of Lazare de Baïf, Jean Antoine de Baif, who was the first writer of French verse in the metres of the Greeks and Latins.
Ronsard's enthusiasm for Greek poetry was roused by the reading with Dorat of the “Prometheus Bound." He translated it into French, and then, passing from Æschylus to Aristophanes, translated the “Plutus." It was acted in the college theatre, and was the first acted comedy in French. Ronsard passed on with Jean Dorat to Homer and Pindar, and worked hard at the obscure “Cassandra” of Lycophron, one of the seven poets who, in the third century before Christ, in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, were called the Pleiades. The name was presently revived in France for application to Ronsard and six of his companions. Pierre de Ronsard, in his own verse, began early to work definitely for the enrichment of the language of his country, by restoring old words to their proper use and by inventing new, which he took from other languages and fashioned in the manner of the Greeks.*
He modelled his style first upon Horace, then upon Pindar. He entered into close companionship of study with Antoine de Baïf and Joachim du Bellay. They who were not of the league laughed at the learned obscurities of Ronsard's “Pindarising." But Ronsard made his mark upon his time. His influence was felt by those poets in England who were aiming at the elevation of our literature by imitation of the Greeks and Latins. When, in his latter days, he was heavily afflicted not only with deafness but with gout, Queen Elizabeth herself was among Ronsard's readers and admirers. Mary Queen of Scots, in 1583, two or three years before his death and four years before her own, sent to him by the hands of the Sieur de Nauson, her
“ E. W." i. Introd. 57, 58.